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Family Camp FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Family Camp
(or generally good info you should know!)

Hi! I'm Nate Ransil, Sandy Cove's Director of Program Ministries, and I want to share answers to some questions you may have as you figure out if Family Camp will be a great vacation for your family.
(Spoiler alert: I think it will be! I may be biased…)

What does Family Camp have for my elementary school-aged kids?

Your kids are awesome! You love them, and they are great… You want to play with them, have fun on vacation, and make great memories, right? But a break from each other is good too. When was the last time you had a conversation with your spouse that did not involve a kid interrupting you?

ClubCove to the rescue! For a couple hours each morning and evening, your  4–11 year old kids head for ClubCove, which is kind of like VBS – each group is age graded (4s and 5s, 6s and 7s and so on) so your kids will make friends with kids the same age as they are. They play games, do crafts and activities, learn about Jesus, and have a blast with their leaders. We hire and train staff for ClubCove that your kids will look forward to being with, and that you will want as role models for them!

Kids LOVE ClubCove – and parents might love it even more than the kids do!

What about Babies?

Babies are great! Oh – you mean at Family Camp? Well, babies are still great at Family Camp. We already talked about ClubCove for the 4-11 year olds, but 0-3 year olds have their own part of ClubCove that we affectionately refer to as “ClubCrib.” It is available twice a day, same as ClubCove, but it is more about naps, stroller rides and staring at the fish tank, and less about Duck, Duck, Goose! Some of our campers who come every summer started in ClubCrib when they were just two weeks old, and hit all the age groups on their way through ClubCove, and CrossWalk (which we will talk about next time.)

ClubCribbers are not great at the memory verse, but they sure are cute – and we would love to care for yours if you come to Family Camp!

What does Family Camp have for my high school-aged kids?
CrossWalk is where the Jr. and Sr. high students go, while the younger kids are in ClubCrib and ClubCove, and the parents stay in the session with the main speaker. The Jr. high and the Sr. high have their own session with the CrossWalk speaker, followed by some time for group discussion. The rest of the time they have all kinds of games and activities, planned and led by dedicated CrossWalk staff, who are there to build community and encourage spiritual growth.

How about college aged young adults?
We have a program called Collide, specifically for this age group, to create community for those who are simultaneously independent, yet enjoying time with their families, but also not in a “married with children” phase of life either. They attend the morning speaker with the other adults, but then gather to discuss and apply it to their specific context. There is a Collide facilitator who plans some social activities as well, that generally involve more coffee and fewer water balloons.

How are we supposed to fit in a hotel room?

The Chesapeake Lodge has a variety of room types with different bed configurations in them, unlike the king bed / 2 double bed options of a regular hotel. Most of our rooms have a queen bed, and two twin beds, and family rooms have beds for 6. Bottom line is that we will help find a room with the right number of beds for your family – or even two rooms next to each other if your family is big enough!

So it may be a bit cozier than home, but we are “camping,” right? 

What are we going to do all day?

Whatever you feel like you want to do… (“gosh!”) (Any Napoleon Dynamite fans out there? No? Ok, moving along…) It’s true though – everything is optional at Family Camp, and we put lots of options on the table, so there is something for everyone as you choose your own adventure.

Now, we do recommend that you eat at least 3 meals a day… And sleep is good! Other than that, the general flow of the day usually involves heading to family worship after breakfast, then breaking out to ClubCove, CrossWalk, etc. while the adults stay in the main session with the speaker.

Everyone reconnects for lunch, then spends the afternoon free time doing all sorts of activities together. Enough that I should write another email about just the activities. After dinner there is more ClubCove and CrossWalk, grown ups can attend an evening service (or just wander around marveling at what it is like to be free of children) and then we have some special fun activities each night to round out the day.

Families come to Sandy Cove with unique needs, so we invite you to make your week the best it can be for you!

Do you have activities that my family will actually like?
Yes! Unless they are into watching the grass grow, or the paint peel…and even then we can probably hook them up. But yes, Family Camp is about getting to do fun stuff you can’t do at home. For the littles there are things like the bounce house, pony rides and pedal carts, then middles move on to rock wall, ga-ga, and archery tag, then on up through zip lines and the big swing. Swimming, kayaking, tubing, mini golf, Frisbee golf, crafts, rockets, archery, sports tournaments, 9 square in the air, playgrounds, the blob, the Key Log, and a bunch of other stuff all combine to make great times and great memories here at Sandy Cove.

What are we going to eat?

“Good food, and plenty of it!” has been the standard since Sandy Cove began in 1946, and Family Camp is not about to depart from that. Three square meals (OK, probably a little beyond square…) a day are served buffet style in the Water’s Edge Dining Room, with food your whole family will enjoy. If someone in your family has food allergies or other dietary restrictions, we can help! We have a process in place so you can let us know if they are vegetarian, gluten free, allergic to nuts, or whatever, and then our kitchen staff will serve them food they can eat.

So imagine being able to wander down the hall each day, fill your plate with good food that you did not have to cook, and enjoy mealtime around the table with your family. Then imagine finishing your conversation, coffee and dessert, and heading for the next activity without having to clean up!

It’s reason #137 why moms and dads are never ready to go home on Fridays!

What if we actually want to “camp camp” at Family Camp?
Well yes… if sleeping in a lodge room, enjoying indoor plumbing in your own bathroom, and 3 meals off the buffet each day just is not “roughing it” enough for you, we have options! Between the Wilderness Campground and the Pioneer Campground, we have a variety of options for tents, RVs, and cabins. You can stay at the campground, and cook your own food out there, but still participate in the Family Camp program – activities, speakers, ClubCove and CrossWalk, the whole works! You can learn more about the options at each campground here: https://events.sandycove.org/campground-rv-park

Can I get a better price?

That’s a definite maybe! We know that Family Camp is a great value when you add up everything that is included, but recognize that you still have to make your family budget work. Here are a few options that would make Dave Ramsey proud…

1. Camping – We talked last email about how camping and cooking for yourself is an option, and it comes with a lower price point too. See more here.

2. First timer discount – We will take 50% off the lodge package if this is your first time to family camp, just to get you here so you can discover for yourself how great it is! Save 50%

3. Family max – Even after you are not a first timer anymore, the most you will pay for is 4 family members! If you have 6 or 7 people in your family, you know how quickly costs multiply when you go anywhere else – but not here!

4. Scholarships – Life happens, we get it… You can apply for a need-based scholarship here, to give you the boost you need to get here. About scholarships.

5. Single parents – There is a special fund supported by donors who want to see single parents and their families come to Family Camp for support, encouragement, and fun! Details are here.

6. Operation Oasis – Families with mom or dad returning from recent overseas deployment get to come to Family Camp for FREE! That is a pretty good price – and there are no strings attached! This is 100% underwritten by people who want to see your family reconnect well. Apply here.

Can I bring a boat?
Sure! We have an amazing waterfront location and our marina has kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and even some sailboats for you to use. We also have ski boats we run during Family Camp, and do our best to get everyone out on a tube or the wavecutter (banana boat tube thingy…) while they are here. But if you have a boat and want to fish, cruise, or more time for tubing, you are welcome to bring it along. We have moorings you can keep it on, and you can come and go from the floating docks at the marina. It is tidal here though, and shallow. Smaller boats can generally be launched at our river bank, bigger boats may need to be launched at a ramp in town and brought here. If this is interesting to you, just contact me and we can talk through the specifics of your boat and how it can work best for you here.

Am I going to be going to church every day?
Well, it is true that some of the things that make Family Camp a unique vacation are the times of worship, the speakers who come to encourage us with God’s Word, and the spiritual renewal and refreshment that result. Most of our guests look forward to these times as part of their day because they are so beneficial. However, we also emphasize that “everything is optional” and recognize that sometimes skipping a session to take a walk and hold hands with your spouse (while your kids are off enjoying ClubCove) is the best use of your time. So the opportunity is there, and the sessions are great, but nobody is taking attendance – if you show up, it’s because you want to! :)

What is a life coach?
Each week of Family Camp, we bring in a person to serve as life coach. They speak in the evening services, usually on relationships or other practical ways we apply God’s Word to our lives, but the rest of the time they are just “available.” Sometimes just having a person who can listen to you, and pray with you and for you, is just what you need to help sort through some of the tricky situations you are dealing with in life. You can make an appointment, and get together with the life coach for just that purpose. Don’t worry – these coaches won’t make you do push-ups, or run up hills. (We have wellness coaches too, but that’s a different story!)

I heard a rumor that you guys are big fans of spaghetti?

Ha! And that is not really a question…

But yes, if you peek at the daily schedule you will see “Spaghetti Time” almost every day. This does not mean we have run out of good ideas for lunch – it refers to the question “How do you know when spaghetti is done?” and the answer “Throw it against the wall, and see if it sticks!”

So here at Sandy Cove, spaghetti time follows the message and is simply time set aside to think through, process and apply what God might be trying to say to us. The speakers provide us with questions as discussion starters or journaling prompts, the kids are still off at ClubCove and CrossWalk, and there is an hour when the “noise” of normal life is turned down and it is easier to listen and see what “sticks.”

By the end of the week, many guests are as excited about spaghetti as we are!

Is Family Camp appropriate for kids with special needs?
While there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question,many families with children who have special needs have found Sandy Cove to be one of the few places they can vacation together. While ClubCove and CrossWalk cannot deliver dedicated one-on-one care, and not all areas of camp are fully accessible yet, we are certainly willing to integrate each person into the program at whatever level they are capable of participating. Parents have the peace of mind knowing that they are right here in case they are needed, and that the children can have a semi-independent experience with peers, as well as plenty of fun with their own families. If you are wondering whether this would be a good fit for your family, feel free to connect with me on the specifics of your situation, and let’s talk through it.

I don’t have kids – does that rule me out of Family Camp?
No, not at all! Though families are who we have in mind when programming this experience, we are also well aware that people without kids attend, and we love to have them! We have empty nesters, singles, grandparents, aunts and uncles (yes, family reunions come to Family Camp all the time!) and all sorts of people. We try to put “cookies on all the shelves” so that everyone has a great time here together, even if families have the most “cookies” on their “shelf.” So come on over – it will make you young again!

What else do I need to know?

That’s what I am wondering too! I’ve tried to talk through the highlights to help you see that Family Camp could be a better vacation option for your family, and hopefully by now you have thought about the 50% off for first timers, clicked the button, and I’ll see you this summer. Usually what happens is parents come up to me on Thursday nights between the sunset and s’mores and say something like “I know you said this was going to be good, but we had NO idea!!!” And I just smile…

So, if you have any other questions I can help with, please let me know, and I will get them answered.

Otherwise, Happy (Family) Camping!

Nate Signature.jpgI’ll tell you a little about myself, just to help you know where I am coming from. My name is Nate, and I have been married to Evelyn for 22 years. For the past few years she has been directing The Marsh, Sandy Cove's summer day camp for kids in the local community, and works in our local public libraries the rest of the year. We have two boys – Caleb is in college and has been a lifeguard here in the summers, and TJ was a counselor at the Marsh this year. Oh, and we have a black lab named Edith!

I’ve been working at Sandy Cove for almost 15 years. Before that I was at camps in Michigan, including one where I guided wilderness trips for juvenile delinquents. Working with them was one of the major motivations to get involved in family camps – to see families becoming strong and healthy instead of increasingly dysfunctional.

So that’s me – you can introduce yourself when you get here next summer ;) 

And if you think of any other questions, please email me so I can add them to the list! n.ransil@sandycove.org